SODA POP, In-Pact Theatre Company, at Live Bait Theater. James Hanna's Soda Pop is an Archie comic book come to life. It's a musical version of Happy Days. It's every pop-song lyric from the 50s whirred around in a Mixmaster and poured into a coherent plot. Unlike other heavy-handed tributes to the supposedly innocent days of letter-man jackets and poodle skirts and motorcycle-riding toughs, this lighthearted lip-sync musical is all supreme silliness, more closely resembling Mad magazine parodies of Grease and Bye Bye Birdie than the musicals themselves.
Set in Pop's soda shop in 1960, Soda Pop explores the interlocking lives of a posse of giddy, fresh-faced teenagers nearing high school graduation. Every trite staple of 50s pop tunes is lampooned here. There's the ever-so-sweet cheerleader who falls for the cigarette-smoking "leader of the pack," the tragic consequences of a ride around "dead man's curve," and the palpable tension centered on asking or getting asked to the prom. Every so often, through throwaway lines and one priceless anachronistic dance number to a Village People tune, Hanna seems to be heading toward a deliciously subversive commentary on the homoerotic undertones of 50s and 60s teen rituals like slumber parties, Twister, and hanging out on the street corner. But Soda Pop is largely, as they used to say, good clean fun.
That such a predictable and rather unambitious offering succeeds as well as it does is a tribute to In-Pact Theatre Company's virtually flawless, irrepressibly enthusiastic cast, directed with pinpoint precision by Scott Tomhave. All ten actors, dressed and made up to look like Don Martin cartoons, throw themselves furiously into their roles, mouthing every silly song lyric and lunging into every goofy dance step with such conviction that this bit of fluff becomes irresistible.